If you build it, they might not actually come.
That’s the predicament facing the shiny new Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt (BER), which has been many years in the making, with ground having first been broken all the way back in 2006. One of the glaring issues had been that the original planning turned out to have been, well, under-ambitious…in a sense meaning, “Ladies and gentlemen, we need a bigger airport.” This was eventually smartly addressed by 2017’s Masterplan 2040, which will involve adding on to BER in a continuous fashion going forward.
But for now it is at last actually opening, this coming Halloween day, as it was just announced that the Joint Aviation Authority of Berlin-Brandenburg (Gemeinsame Obere Luftfahrtbehörde Berlin-Brandenburg, LuBB) have presented Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH (FBB) with permission to begin operations. And, well…it’s hard to say where the passengers will be coming from at this time. European Union travel bans have left Americans locked out of the Continent, without a projected date for lifting said ban. But with EU citizens conversely barred from traveling to the US, one guesses that vacationers at least will be undertaking much more intracontinental travel—and so the number of visitors to Berlin from Belgium, Spain, Slovenia and the like should significantly tick up.
When BER indeed throws open its doors on October 31, it will be the city’s third airport, after Tegel and Schoenfeld, which is actually located just nearby. The original idea was that the capital should become a European “hub,” which makes perfect sense—although Frankfurt, just 424 km away, is already one of Europe’s busiest airports.
“Willy Brandt Airport is one of the most important infrastructure projects for Germany,” insists Guido Beermann, Minister for Transport and Infrastructure in the State of Brandenburg, “and will make a key contribution to the development of the State of Brandenburg. BER has been put through its paces by the Joint Upper Aviation Authority of Berlin-Brandenburg. With today’s handover of notices, we have now reached the last important milestone for commissioning BER.”
It is a strikingly modern structure, just the sort of “airport of tomorrow” we have come to expect of Europe, as opposed to the drabness and inefficiency of so many American counterparts (including all three that serve New York). So it is certainly something of a hopeful sign, pointing the way ahead from our current pandemic-stunted reality.
Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, Chief Executive Officer of Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH, sounds a bit relieved when he says, “We were able to prove that all airport facilities and installed equipment are in line with requirements and function properly. Having received clearance from the building authorities to use Terminal 1 at the end of April, we now have the last necessary notices that we have an airport that is ready for use in accordance with all rules and regulations. As far as it is humanly possible to tell, there is nothing standing in the way of the BER opening on 31 October 2020.”
One genuinely wishes that by this time next year, it will look like the bustling European hub they had always intended it to be. Viel Glück!